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Lithia Park gets new neighbors

The building that's been under construction for the last two years across from Lithia Park and beside Pioneer Hall isn't a commercial space that will be filled with businesses, it's a house.

The house at 85 Winburn Way belongs to Bryan and Stephanie DeBoer, and should be complete around May or June this year, Bryan DeBoer said.

He said they want to move back to Ashland because it's their hometown and they're preparing for retirement, although that is still more than a decade away. Bryan DeBoer is now the CEO of Lithia Motors.

"We spend a fair amount of time in Ashland, and we love to walk in that area and it's sentimental," Bryan DeBoer said.

They've lived in Medford for the past 30 years, and now their youngest son is ready to graduate from South Medford High School and head off to college in the fall.

“We’re not in a big hurry because we don’t want to displace our son from his family home, but our team is ready,” Bryan DeBoer said.

This project is pushing three years, he said.

Why live in the middle of downtown traffic commotion?

His grandfather was a gardener in Lithia Park, Bryan DeBoer said, and he often helped plant trees.

“He used to pay in hamburgers and ice-cream at the restaurant that used to sit where we’re building the house,” DeBoer said. “So, it’s a very special place to me.”

He said his other grandfather started Lithia Motors in the Plaza in 1946, so his family has a strong connection to downtown.

The location is questionable to some because the house sits in between city buildings on a busy public street, but that whole block is zoned for residential construction.

“It’s been zoned residential since the city adopted its zoning,” contractor Sean Downey said.

According to city building officials, that street is zoned in line with Granite Street above it, but there just hasn’t been any interest in building houses until now. The city buildings and parking lots mostly were constructed with conditional use permits.

DeBoer said there’s not many places near the park to build a new home.

“I’m not sure you can find places to build in Ashland,” DeBoer said.

Senior designer Tom Sager, with Carlos Delgado Architect, designed the home along with Delgado.

It’s becoming increasingly harder to find decent lots to build on in Ashland, Sager said, because the city decided years ago to not expand its urban growth boundary.

“Ashland has very limited resources as far as empty lots go for new construction,” Sager said. “Anything that does get built these days is usually in very unusual spots or very steep spots.”

As was the case with this house.

Bryan DeBoer, Sager and Downey all said the most challenging aspect of building this house was the small amount of space to work with and the steep slope of the hillside behind it.

It took a lot of site work to build the house to mirror the typography, Bryan DeBoer said. There’s a wall built into the back of the house that rests against the hill.

The design incorporates the surrounding hillside and Lithia Park area into it, as per the DeBoers’ wishes.

The style is mid-century modern and is sectioned by floors into different grades and deep eaves to supply privacy but lean away from the street and sidewalk.

Part of the house is a low grade, Sager said, and the upper floor is set back even further to not dominate the street or sidewalk and to replicate the natural progression of the hillside.

He said it was also challenging to meet the city’s solar constraints on the narrow lot.

DeBoer said the lot is 2,924 square feet. He said they wanted the house to fit into the surrounding environment, so they used mature landscaping and natural materials such as reclaimed wood.

“We wanted it to feel that it was there for decades rather than it just being built,” DeBoer said.

He said his favorite part of the design is the outdoor patios — two on the sides and one on the roof.

“There’s a lot of outdoor living space,” Bryan DeBoer said. “The design really maximizes the outdoor space in a congested area. There’s not really a yard.”

He said the house utilizes a lot of natural materials and meets LEED standards, so there are many sustainable and environmentally friendly aspects as well.

The DeBoers are unsure of whether they’ll sell their 1937 restored art deco home in Medford.

People walking by the Ashland site often stop and ask questions, Bryan DeBoer said, and for the most part they’ve all been positive conversations, but there’s always some negative comments in a small town.

As far as living next to Pioneer Hall where the community peace meals take place on a nearly daily occurrence as well as the occasional warming shelters, he said it’s all a part of the beauty of Ashland.

“We’re used to the hustle and bustle of the area,” Bryan DeBoer said. ‘We’ll all work together and figure it out.”

The project is about two months behind schedule, he said.

The interior projects are wrapping up, but there’s still some stonework which needs to be completed on the exterior that has been delayed because of the weather.

The outside temperature must be steadily above 40 degrees to finish the stonework, and Bryan DeBoer said there may be another 45 days until that work can begin again.

“I’m sure everyone will be glad to have it done,” Downey said. “It’s a challenging spot to work, especially in the summer when there’s a lot of people down there. It’s a busy spot.”

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Jamie Lusch / Ashland TidingsThe DeBoer house is nearing completion in Ashland in Lithia Park.
Jamie Lusch / Ashland TidingsThe DeBoer house is nearing completion in Ashland in Lithia Park.